In 1918, Communism was rampant throughout the Soviet Union. The Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, had overthrown the Provisional Government and now seemed to possess the majority of power in Russia, and any of the country’s problems seemed to be under control. However, the issues were only just beginning. Meanwhile, Leon Trotsky was another leader within the Communist Party. He would go on to help the Bolsheviks win the Russian Civil War that lasted from 1918-1923. However, Leon Trotsky and Vladimir Lenin did not always work on the same side. Initially, the two men did not get along. Iskra delegates became two different groups. The Bolsheviks, who hoped for a smaller but very well organized political party, were with Lenin. The Mensheviks, who argued that a larger and less restrictive party was what was needed, sided with Trotsky. Therefore, the two leaders were not always on the same page and split ways from 1903-1904. Their feud even led to Lenin calling Trotsky a “Judas”, which means “scoundrel” or “swine”. Eventually, Leon Trotsky became a member- and even a well respected leader- of the Bolsheviks. However, the two still had fundamental differences (and similarities) that led to actions that in turn led to the rise of Communist state in the USSR. This essay will examine the qualities of both leaders and asses how those traits influenced their roles in making Russia Communist.
Vladimir Lenin lived from April 22, 1870 to January 21, 1924. He had a small stature only 5’5”, but had a huge presence. He lived in Russia as a Communist politician. Lenin was a revolutionary thinker. His ideas were “never-before-seen” and absolutely made citizens of Russia truly think about their ideologies. Lenin served as editor of the Communist newspaper Iskra, which was established in the year 1900. In addition, he is also credited with the founding of the Bolshevik (Communist) Party. To show how powerful and influential Lenin actually was, the Bolsheviks eventually overthrew the Provisional Government and became the leading force in the country- establishing the USSR as a Communist state. He created the party after the London Conference in 1903, which was when the Russian Communist Party split into two; the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. The Mensheviks had the support of Leon Trotsky. On another note, Lenin also had immense perseverance skills. This quality is shown greatly when he spent many years leading the Bolsheviks from Switzerland after they had been exiled. As an opportunist, Lenin was also able to perform various tasks that proved advantageous to Russia. For instance, in the year 1917 he was able to persuade the Germans into supplying him with money and resources. These supplies would in turn be used for Vladimir Lenin to return to the Soviet Union and begin a civilian uprising. This would later be known as the October Revolution. Moreover, Lenin served as a figurehead to the people, the citizens, of Russia. He went back to St. Petersburg, Russia in 1917. This was at the Finland Station. Directly after this, he established and became the leader of the Bolshevik Party. He created the slogan “Peace, Bread, Land”; which was a metaphor for hope and prosperity in the nation and it helped him to gain thousands upon thousands of supporters/followers.
In addition, Vladimir Lenin was the controller of the Soviet Union. Leon Trotsky was able to put together and organize the Red Guards. He also was able to successfully plan the November Revolution. This is also known as the October Revolution and took place in 1917. This was the overthrowing of the czar of Russia (the Provisional Government), and in turn the rise of the Bolshevik Party (Communists) coming into and establishing power into the country. This also allowed for Lenin to take power. Trotsky was looking out for his “colleague”. However, Trotsky never would have been given this opportunity to arrange this uprising if not for Lenin personally placing him in that position. Lenin and Trotsky had many differing political opinions- going all the way back to the Bolsheviks vs. the Mensheviks and their split from 1903-1904. That being said, Trotsky never questioned Lenin’s leadership through this. This shows how the two worked together and supported each other in order to meet the overall objective of turning Russia into a Communist society. Continuing, Lenin was a ruthless leader. In the year 1917 he formed (created) the Assembly. However, it produced Social Revolutionaries as the majority rather than the Bolsheviks. As a result, the program was abolished and that was the end of “democracy” (if you will) under Lenin. After repealing the Assembly, he established the USSR, declared it as, the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat”. This was a one-political-party system. Thus, some opposition was natural, expected even. When met with any resistance, Stalin created the Cheka. The Cheka served as the Russian secret police. They had brutal tactics and were frightening to the Soviet Union civilians. When Civil War broke out, Vladimir Lenin he put forward War Communism and shot down any strikers. Lenin was a true visionary. This can be seen in the many ways he brought forth the Bolshevik State in Russia. Last but certainly not least (this was one of the most power and positive traits of Lenin), he was flexible. He understood that things may not always go as planned. So, when the sailors at Kronstadt began to rebel, he had the proper sense to deal with it. He drew back on War Communism and brought in the New Economic Policy in order to try and improve the conditions of Workers in Russia.
Leon Trotsky was born on November 7th, 1879 in Ukraine and died by assassination on August 21st, 1940. He was also relatively short like Lenin at only 5’9”, but still remained a powerful force in the country. He was a Marxist. He supported the Menshevik party, against Lenin, after the London Conference in 1903 when the Russian Communist Party divided in two. Eventually, however, he teamed up with Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks. Leon Trotsky played a fundamental role in Communist think. At the young age of 20 years old, he was placed in the part of workers’ leader. This led to him being exiled from his nation in the year 1900. For roughly the next 17 years of his life he was abroad- all over different countries. Some important events of this period include him serving as editor of the main newspaper of Communists called Pravda, which meant truth. He wrote for this paper among many others and thus had major influence when it came to dictating what the Communists believed in and supported. However he returned one time in the year 1905. This was the year of revolution and during this time and he was appointed to be Chairman of the St. Petersburg Soviet. Then, in 1914 he wrote a book titled: War and the International which was basically an outline of Communist foreign policy. This policy was larger just to spread Communist around the globe. One important thing that Trotsky did was lead the November (October) Revolution in 1917. He was given this opportunity thanks to Lenin putting him in the job. They did not get along very well but were made to work together. As a result, Trotsky served as Chairman of the Military Revolutionary Committee, which was essentially just the ruler of the Red Guards. Therefore, it was on his hands that the November Revolution occurred. Leon Trotsky was a Politburo member which consisted of 5 specific Bolsheviks that controlled the government. Additionally, Trotsky paved the way for compromise with the Brest-Litovsk Treaty. This was because his roles was changed to Commissar for Foreign Affairs by Vladimir Lenin. Trotsky played by his own new set of foreign policy rules. He acted harshly and shut down the French Information Bureau as it had anti-Soviet propaganda. He also had all Englishmen currently in Russia held prisoner up until the time when the English released a Journalist from the Soviet Union they had held captive. Peace was declared between Germany and the Politburo on November 7th. This forced Leon Trotsky to agree to the conditions of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. However, he informed the Germans that they would be destroyed after Germany’s defeat. Also, Trotsky calculated terror. That being said, he did not support fright. He once said; “We have not organized the revolution to kill.” Many forces wanted to end the Bolshevik regime and in order to prevent this, Lenin established the Extraordinary Commission for the Suppression of the Counter-Revolution on December 20th of 1917. This was the Cheka. With Leon Trotsky in charge, any and all opposition was eliminated.
To continue, Leon Trotsky helped bring victory to the Civil War. The Civil War initially began when the the White Army attacked the Bolsheviks. After this, Trotsky became Commissar for War along with President of the Supreme War Council due to Lenin. He was able to win the Civil War because of six main points. One was because he saw war as the “instrument of Policy”. He was also able to regentrify the Russian Army troops through the Red Guards and increased there numbers from 7,000 to 5 million between March of 1918 and and September of 1920. He also brought in and trained all officers in the army, which proved to be challenging as many supported the White Army. He helped give resources such as food and weapons to the army. Lastly, he helped shut down the Kronstadt sailors revolution by making the Red Guards trek and ruthlessly attach along melting ice caps. Trotsky was responsible for the New Economic Policy after seeing how Russians were in desperate need of food, (brink of starvation), and did not want this to serve as a reason for the Bolsheviks losing support from the population. The Kronstadt rebellion proved this theory and the NEP was enforced by Lenin in the year 1921. Finally, Leon Trotsky was very comfortable and used to giving up power towards Joesph Stalin. When Vladimir Lenin passed away, Trotsky tried to fight for power with Stalin. He was unsuccessful and as a result eventually exiled in 1929 and assassinated in 1940. He wrote literature that criticized Stalin such as History of the Russian Revolution. The propaganda that was used by Joseph Stalin attacked Trotsky, calling him the “fount of all evil”.
In conclusion, up until the death of Vladimir Lenin in 1924 and Joseph Stalin’s rise to power, he and Leon Trotsky used their differences and similarities as an advantage to ultimately work together and achieve the main goal of establishing Russia as a Communist State.